Is Gambling Legal in Texas?
Without a strong historical gambling culture, the laws pertaining to gambling in the state of Texas are among the strictest across the whole country.
Having said that, the freedom to gamble has seen positive changes over the last few decades. Before such changes, the only form of legal gambling was pari-mutuel wagering. There was also a massive illegal underground network for sports betting and poker, which, thanks to recent gambling law changes, has seen a decline in these illegal activities.
Texans now have access to two Class II casinos, a hugely popular lottery, charitable gaming like bingo and raffles, and last but not least, a loophole in the legislation that loosely makes home poker games legal.
Texas Gambling Laws
Firstly, lets take a look at the actual legal definitions of the single component of gambling that is criminalized in Texas; The “bet”. The definitions are so broad that it’s basically a blanket ban for all forms of gambling.
Excerpt from Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal code
(1) “Bet” means an agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance.
(a) A person commits an offence if he:
1. Makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest;
2. Makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or
3. Plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.
By these definitions, even the game of poker, which by majority of the poker community is considered as a game of skills, is not exempted.
Even with all these seemingly restrictive laws, there are equally as many legal loopholes that are constantly exploited by Texas residents.
The most infamous loophole is caused by a combination of the following statutes found in Chapter 47.02, section E of the penal codes, which states:
“It is a defence to prosecution under this section that a person played for something of value other than money using an electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance excluded from the definition of “gambling device” under section 47.01 (4) (B).
The gambling devices spelled out in section 47.01 includes many commonly used devices in games of chance, such as: Roulette wheels, Video Poker machines, slot machines and keno machines etc.
The cause of confusion comes mainly from section (B) of the same penal code as above which excludes certain devices from the terminology “Gambling device”:
(B) does not include any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance designed, made, and adapted solely for bona fide amusement purposes if the contrivance rewards the player exclusively with non-cash merchandise prizes, toys, or novelties, or a representation of value redeemable for those items, that have a wholesale value available from a single play of the game or device of not more than 10 times the amount charged to play the game of device once or $5, which ever is less.
Looking at these specific penal codes, it doesn’t take a legal expert to figure out the potential for exploitation of such laws, and therefore brought about an influx of electronic gaming devices called as “Eight-liners”, also known as “Maquinitas” by the locals.
These machines are cropping up all over Texas; in gas stations, private residences, deserted buildings and even in empty spaces behind stores with appearances of a legitimate business. They are configured to have no payout options or to payout small non-cash prizes, such as stuffed animals or tickets. These are then used to exchange for cash. The whole process exploits the loopholes to such degrees, that they are seen to be legitimate machines even to the eyes of visiting inspectors, where as in reality, they’re simply modified slot machines that you would find in most casinos.
Although the illegal gambling scene is wide spread, law enforcement has been hot on their heels, cracking down on illegal gaming rooms and use of eight-liners across the whole state.
The penalties for participating in any form of illegal gambling are charged with class c misdemeanour, punishable by a fine of up to $500, community service, and probation. These are light compared to those whom are charged with organizing or promoting illegal gambling, which can include fines of up to $4000 or even up to one year in county jail.
What is the Legal Gambling Age in Texas?
The minimum age to participate in any form of gambling is 21 years old. For online sports betting as well as some land based casinos and poker rooms, the minimum legal age is 21 years old.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Texas?
As the gambling laws in the state of Texas do not specifically address the legality of online gambling, it is not a crime for residents to play at offshore online gambling websites. No one has ever been convicted in Texas for online gambling. Having said this, there are a few select laws that could be applied to online betting, which we think, as we like have all bases covered, is best for you to at least be aware off.
The laws in questions are the ones already listed earlier in this article, but just to reiterate, it is the definition of “bet”, found in section 47.01 (1)and the definition of gambling devices” found in section 47.01 (4):
A “bet” means an agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance.
A “Gambling device” means any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance not excluded under Paragraph (B) that for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined solely or partially by chance, even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the contrivance.
Under such laws, it could be argued that any form of online gambling is considered as illegal by the state. But, as we have found, there has yet to be a case where a Texas resident has been found guilty of illegal online gambling. This is unlikely to change as no evidence suggests that the state is actively going after online players.
Where can I play Texas Poker online?
As the name suggests, one would think Texas Hold’em is widely available online in the state in which it is named after. Sadly, as already discussed earlier, online gambling is only legal at offshore online websites. Good news is, there are PLENTY of online poker sites available to Texas residents. Generally speaking, any poker websites that accepts American players will also accept players from Texas.
We have examined the whole online poker website network and brought you what we consider as the best online poker websites for you, based on security, reliability and all round ease of use. Please take a look at our Top Recommended Play Money Online Poker Sites at the bottom of this page.
Will Online Poker Texas Gambling be made Legal?
Judging by the status quo, the likelihood of this happening isn’t to be completely ignored, but having witnessed the difficulty and challenges brought up by opposing parties to recent changes in the gambling scene shows exactly just how serious of an issue gambling expansion is for the state of Texas.
For the time being, Texans are in no short supply of safe and reliable offshore online poker websites.